What Is a Victorian House?

Evelyn Long

Feb 13, 2020

what is a victorian style house

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What is a Victorian house? Since the age of Queen Victoria, this design’s distinctive features have captured the hearts of architects and homeowners alike. If you’re not sure what to picture when you think of this style, it’s time to learn more.

You can find endless properties online to browse through and inspire your home-owning dreams. You may save pictures of wrap-around porches to social media, or flip through listings with gabled roofs. While you daydream, you may not notice that you have a preferred architectural style.

However, identifying that preference can help you connect you with your future home. Read on to discover why the design is so popular even centuries after its conception.

Definition of Victorian Architecture

Victorian homes typically have exterior features like steep, gabled roofs, stained glass, bay windows and rounded angles. You may find two- or three-story properties with high ceilings that create an aura of luxury. Wooden trim completes each room, along with at least one ornate staircase — the focal point of the home.

These themes carry throughout the many offshoots of this original style, so they’re easy to spot.

a pink Victorian home

History of the Victorian Home

Victorian architecture got its name from Queen Victoria, who reigned over the UK and Ireland from 1837 to 1901, the longest-reigning monarch until Queen Elizabeth II. Before that period, most people built homes with a focus on their functionality. If something didn’t serve a useful purpose, no one wasted time or resources on it.

After Queen Victoria ascended to the throne, design aesthetics shifted towards beauty over practicality. The Industrial Age brought about new inventions to make life easier and home production faster. Visual appeal became a primary aspect of architecture, spreading all over the globe due to the Queen’s expanding empire.

This style is still popular today because of the many ways people interpret it. Here are some of the most popular variations you can find across America.

Gothic Revival

As a callback to previous times, people in the mid-1800s built Gothic Revival homes with touches of Victorian architecture. They created towering roofs with steep pitches and arches, often covered in trim vergeboards made with wood. This look may remind you of medieval churches, as this style fell mostly to religious and community buildings in the late 1800s.

Queen Anne

In the last decade of Queen Victoria’s reign, architects built homes inspired by the English Baroque buildings from when Queen Anne ruled between 1702 and 1714. Popularized by Richard Norman Shaw, these structures added rounded towers to the sharp angles of the roof and replaced windows with larger versions. The adaptations created a regal and welcoming appearance on the Victorian features that resemble a closed-off castle.

Folk Victorian

Most people who didn’t have titles or great wealth lived in folk Victorian homes. Lacking any towers or high ceilings, these buildings mostly form square structures with one to two floors. You can see Victorian architecture in the trim that lines porches and the roof. It’s a style that’s easiest for homeowners to build without leaving behind some of the key Victorian design elements.

Second Empire

Although Second Empire architecture can lead to beautiful full-sized buildings, it’s best known for creating gorgeous scenery in the form of two- or three-story townhomes. Mansard roofs use a heavy pitch on each side of the structure to and proudly display artistic millwork. Usually painted in bright colors, you can find these townhomes in places like the streets of San Francisco, California.

Pros of Victorian Houses

Once you live in a Victorian home, you’ll feel positively regal. The high ceilings speak for themselves, along with the ornate fireplaces and decorative mantels. You can enjoy thick exterior walls for a quiet living experience and show off drapery along the inside of your sash windows.

Victorian houses also have a distinct look, thanks to the steep roofs and occasional towers. You’ll never have to worry about living in a cookie-cutter home.

Cons of Victorian Homes

Before you move into a Victorian house, consider the placement and weather. More windows mean more cold and hot air possibly seeping inside. Some of your landscaping may also get less sun if the home has more than two stories.

You could deal with structural challenges if you get an older home with outdated plumbing or electrical wiring. Another thing to consider is that high ceilings will allow more echoes if you don’t strategize your use of rugs and sound-absorbing decor.

Famous Victorian Houses in the U.S.

painted ladies in san francisco

The Painted Ladies

Arguably the most famous Victorian homes in the country are the painted ladies, otherwise known as the “postcard row.” These houses were built in the Queen Anne style and are well-known for their pastel colors. Experts date these structures between 1892 and 1896, making them a historic part of the San Francisco landscape.

Full House victorian house

The Full House House

This sitcom staple is featured in the opening credits of the show, yet the interior was actually a sound stage. Either way, 90s TV fans will find it hard to separate the vision of the Painted Ladies from the opening notes of the theme song.

The Full House house was actually owned by executive producer Jeff Franklin until he listed it in 2019. Neighbors were understandably resistant to the idea of themed tours, rabid fans will have to stick with a sunset picture.

innes victorian house from charmed

The Charmed House

Of course, there was more than one Victorian home gracing our TV screens near the turn of the century. The sisters of Charmed also resided in one of these classic properties.

The Innes House, located in San Francisco, dates back to the 1880s. It’s one among many elaborate homes in the neighborhood, its historic features now protected by a local conservancy.

What is a Victorian House Style?

Victorian homes offer unique features you can’t find in any other style. They stand out from the crowd and make a statement. Consider the different styles, along with the pros and cons, to decide if a Victorian design matches your future goals.

Read our Complete Guide to Different House Styles in the U.S.

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